“Successful” is an understatement when describing Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar has released an unprecedented string of critically acclaimed films. The films don’t just satisfy those hard to please critics, but they are sure to keep kids of any age smiling. Matinee showings are filled with kids, but often midnight premieres are highlighted by their fair share of college students. It’s easy to get caught up in the originality of all these wonderful films and feel like a kid again, even if you came into the film with a kid of your own. The wit of Pixar movies makes them classic films in any sense, films that, unlike most animated movies, transcend the age barrier.
Pixar’s 10th full-length animated feature, “Up,” transcends this age barrier between its two focal characters, the elderly Carl Fredricksen and giddy scout, Russell. The two characters start at opposite ends of the personality spectrum, with Fredricksen as seemingly grumpy and senile while Russell is full of energy and jitter. Their friendship slowly builds as the story moves on. Watching it develop is the source of that warm feeling every Pixar movie manages to deliver.
The general premise in “Up” might seem extraordinary to adults, whose imaginations are slowly shriveling away, while kids might get the idea after five seconds with a balloon. Fredricksen, on a mission to South America, uses balloons to float his beloved house out of a construction site and out into the sky. Russell, who’s trying to get his “assisting the elderly” badge, is stuck on the house as it takes off.
Both characters have interesting back stories that soon tie into their bond throughout the film. Fredricksen’s story is particularly highlighted in the beginning of the film, starting as a little kid who wanted to be just like his aviator hero, Christopher Plummer. Fredricksen’s life story passes like a blur but remains an integral piece of how he lives and is likely to put the majority of the audience through an emotional tailspin. The moving pull of Fredricksen’s story helps the audience excuse his initial grumpiness.
But if the kid in you isn’t into all these delicate emotions, there’s plenty of dazzling visuals and funny slapstick around, and they’re both aided by the fact that the film is available in theaters in Disney Digital 3D. “Up” is filled with all of the visual goodies you can imagine from a house floating from balloons, as well as from a few exhilarating action scenes. There are also plenty of wacky animals hanging around South America to make you chuckle. Dug, the lovable talking dog featured in the trailers, gets all the more lovable as you get further acquainted with him. Kevin, a frenetic squawking bird, proves useful for laughs and thrills as the movie progresses and is a key character in pushing the film along. Russell gives Kevin, a female, her name, and the two become quickly attached to each other.
The movie’s pacing is based around Fredricksen and Russell, while introducing all the supporting animal characters around them through humor. This occasionally makes the film feel a bit frantic, but its cute jokes keep the audience’s attention. Once all the characters are introduced, the story takes off, and the relationship between Fredricksen and Russell is emphasized.
This film might not utilize subtleties like last year’s incredible “WALL-E,” but whatever it lacks for in subtlety it makes up in immediacy. However, in terms of character development, Fredricksen is a seamless progression from the robot WALL-E, both lonely beings who appear seemingly simple, but altogether are very intricate. Just like in “WALL-E,” Pixar helps you empathize with this character like you never thought you could, especially from his outside appearance. By surrounding Fredricksen with excellent foils such as Russell and Dug, Pixar shows its knack for exploring an intriguing character while keeping the film fluid, funny and full of happies. And you like happies, don’t you?